Today marked the first official day of my New Life. The one where I don’t take a train to and from a job in Boston with a title and a paycheck and instead do the things that've been happening on the edges and stolen moments of my life for the past two years: writing here, writing my book, teaching yoga, the HOME podcast, and whatever else is coming that I don’t know about yet.
I promised myself I wouldn’t plan today out too much in advance, despite all the encouragement to have "a plan." I wanted to give myself the space to have space. For once. Even if for one day. Because I know it’ll get real, really quick.
What snuck into my consciousness leading up to today, though, was the need to clear out. I didn’t know what I was going to do until I started sifting through my underwear drawer yesterday (which is more like a swimsuit/leggings/sports bra/holey bra container), picking out things I didn’t even remember I had, and discarding them.
What I wanted to do was purge my Old Life.
I began with my workout clothes, pajamas and yoga gear. Since these are the items I will (squeeee!) be wearing most in my New Life, I wanted to take real inventory of what I have and fold them nicely, give them their own drawer.
I started out being reasonable. Smart. Practical. I wouldn’t discard things that I might need if I have to go to a business meeting, or a wedding, or a real job again. I wouldn't discard things that were expensive. Also, no "staple items" would go.
The first layer was easy: I tossed things I’ve never worn, regardless of how cute they are. Old t-shirts from this 5K or that fundraiser. A sweatshirt with a stain that hasn’t come out in a dozen washes. Scratchy sweaters I’ll never wear because they’re scratchy. Too big black pants and a cute pair that I wore so much they’re covered in pills and nearly brown now. A cream Ann Taylor blazer because I'll never wear a cream Ann Taylor blazer. The first pass filled up a couple bags.
But I wasn’t satisfied.
It still felt heavy standing in my closet. Too much same. Too much old. Too much baggage.
“Don’t surrender all your joy for an idea you used to have about yourself that isn’t true anymore.” - Cheryl Strayed
I went in for more. I examined every single piece individually this time—I pulled each thing out and touched it and looked and it and noticed how it made me feel. If it felt anything like a story I didn’t want to tell myself anymore, I pitched it. This included:
- Several cute hand-me-downs from my mom and friends, because they remind me of not choosing for myself.
- Cheap shoes I bought because drinking put me in a perpetual financial tailspin.
- A dozen really sexy shirts and dresses I got drunk in, because I’m not a girl who gets drunk anymore.
- The dress I wore to my mom’s 60th birthday party, because that day was my last Day 1 and it makes my feel sick with anxiety.
- A kelly green silk tank that looks amazing on me and brings out my eyes, because I wore it to interview for my last two jobs, and those are jobs that don't fit me anymore.
- The only piece of lingerie that I have (it is from the Gap, people), because it has wine stains on it that only I can see and it reminds me of lying.
- Some shirts I really should still love, but don't anymore, because we are allowed to change.
- The cashmere ‘leggings’ I made from my ex's sweater after he dumped me via text, because while cutting the sleeves of his sweater was incredibly cathartic at the time, resentments are not becoming on me.
- Every sock that didn’t have a match.
- Every scarf that felt like someone else, even a beautiful one my friend Josh got me in Italy.
- A few really great dresses, because someone else will feel like they won the lottery.
- The Nike running shorts I wore during the Boston Marathon in 2012, because they remind me of the end of my marriage and being shattered.
- Two sets of old sheets, because I drank in them and spilled wine all over them and had sex with men I didn't want to have sex with in them, but also really beautiful sex with people I loved. None of it is what's happening today or what I want to happen tomorrow, though, so they're gone. Even though I could use a couple pairs of extra sheets.
- My duvet cover, because it was my 'starting over' duvet cover that I bought when my husband moved out. I picked it then because it was feminine and it was only me in this bed for the first time, and because I could choose flowers. But it doesn't look like me anymore; it doesn't feel like starting over anymore. I washed it, hugged it, then put it aside.
- Anything that said to me, "NOT THIS," as Liz Gilbert so expertly put it recently. Even though I'm left with a closet that my seven year-old daughter pointed out, has basically nothing in it, MOM.
Every time I put something in the ‘to go’ pile, I got lighter. Especially when I made the harder decisions based not on what something looked like or how much I spent on it, but how it felt in my hands when I closed my eyes.
Eight bags in the end, and I have a small wardrobe to begin with.
I did choose to keep one heavy item: a puffer jacket I was wearing when I totaled my car, my beautiful red Ford Edge, on a frozen, snowy winter night in December 2013. This was after the DUI. After a suspended license. Long after there was nothing left for me in drinking and I knew it. I drove after having one or two bottles of wine and was planning to meet my mom at a party. My mom, who wouldn't have tolerated me drinking in front of her, anyway. I was just so lonely.
I missed a turn and careened into a stone wall at 55 MPH and I came to as my car was talking to me telling me help was on the way. I somehow didn't get another DUI, but was taken to the hospital instead. I kept the coat because it has burns from my seatbelt on it from when the car hit the wall. I kept it because I'm not there anymore, but I don't ever want to forget how I got here.
My point is this: doing this purge felt really empowering and honest and mindful. I had the space and the energy and the willingness to connect with each thing and question whether it was a story I wanted to keep telling myself or not. If it wasn't, even for reasons I couldn't put my finger on exactly, I tossed it. This is what being sober feels like to me: even when it's hard, I still get to choose. I am free to choose.
Irony of all ironies, because it's the last thing I would've ever chosen. But here I am. And here we go. New life, day one.